Form Equals Function
The body was made in a very specific way to insure your good health and limit physical stress on joints. If one strays from the intended posture, joints wear down faster, causing premature aging, decreased nerve function, and fatigue, among other things. When this occurs, we feel the effects of physical and emotional stress more intensely.
What should our posture look like?
The weight of your head should be supported evenly by the spine and surrounding muscles. Ideally, your neck should have a smooth “C”-shaped curve from front to back, much like the curve of a banana. Viewing from the side, the ear should line up with the center of the shoulders, which in turn should line up with the center of the hip.
The upper-mid back should be relatively straight, both side-to-side and front-to-back. Excess kyphosis is a curvature that looks like a hump in the upper back, and is often associated with:
- difference in shoulder height
- the head bends forward compared to the rest of the body
- difference in shoulder blade height or position
- when bending forward, the upper back appears higher than normal
- tight hamstrings
The low back should have a curve similar to the neck. If there is a loss of neck curve, increased kyphosis, or both, it can alter the low back curve. This affects posture, weight distribution, and body function. Once again, nerves are compromised by changes in joint position and improper spinal curves.
How did my posture become so poor?
There are several reasons: accidents, injuries repetitive activities, prolonged daily computer use, sitting, traveling, poor ergonomics, bad postural habits, the birth process, and more.
The Bowling Ball
For every inch that your head pulls forward, your body feels approximately an extra 10 pounds, or roughly the same weight as a bowling ball. For instance, if your head generally sits 2 inches forward, it actually feels like it weighs between 30 and 36 pounds.
This can cause premature wear of the neck joints, pain, nerve and disc irritation, and reduction or disruption of nerve transmission between the brain and vital organs. Further, it causes upper back muscles to work harder than they should to restore proper head position, which can cause trigger points (muscle knots) and spasms to form around the shoulders. Trigger points can be accompanied by burning, numbness, tingling, or aching.
The adult spinal cord is approximately 18 inches (45 centimeters) long. If you have forward head position accompanied by loss of neck curve, your spinal cord stretches dramatically. With this stretch and irritation, how well can messages travel to and from the brain to carry out crucial body functions?
Supporting the proper curves in the spine and fostering ideal position and posture is vital to your health and long life. One rarely sees an agile and vivacious 75 year-old with a pronounced forward head posture and large mid back hump. The people who age gracefully and live long, healthy, and vibrant lives are usually those with the most ideal spinal curves.
How do I fix this mess?
The body craves movement. That includes each joint of the spine. Where there is immobility, there is spasm and scar tissue. Removing the restrictions with regular chiropractic adjusting can do wonders for your health and vitality. The goal of chiropractic care is to restore normal function to the spine and nervous system to promote optimal nerve function and health. Spinal adjustments help gain necessary mobility to the spine and improve alignment and posture. Supportive exercise can help speed the correction process, and re-model your spine and supporting structures.
Roll up two towels, one small towel – roughly 3-4 inches in diameter, the other a larger towel, rolled to about 4-5 inches in diameter. Lie on the floor and place the larger towel under the middle of the low back (roughly two inches above the beltline). Place the smaller towel under the center of your neck so the head, back, and shoulders are lying flat on the floor and you are looking straight up at the ceiling. You may bend your knees if it is more comfortable. Rest in this position for 15-20 minutes every night.
Neck/head position, shoulder stretches, and general core stability can be greatly improved with a stability ball (aka physioball, yoga ball, pregnancy ball). Make sure when you sit on the ball, your knees are bent at a 90° angle, no more or less. Try these simple steps first:
Sitting on the ball, slowly try to bring your belly button toward your spine. The action of this exercise tilts the pelvis. Really concentrate on this action and perform the movement slowly. Repeat 10-15 times.
Sit on the ball, keeping both feet the same distance apart and slightly out to the side. Slowly lift one foot off the ground to a straight position in front of you, and hold for 5 seconds. Do the same on the opposite side. Repeat 10 times, with the goal of increasing the time of straightening as you progress.
Sit on the ball and slowly walk your feet forward until you are lying on the ball, positioned under the mid-back. Slowly let your head and shoulders hang back. Your arms can reach far behind you or out to the sides. You can roll back and forth slightly—this slowly moves each spinal joint individually, bringing necessary circulation, fluid exchange, and mobility to the joints.
Other specific spinal curve correction techniques exist, and should be recommended based on your specific history and case. Consult Dr. Lee to learn how you can maximize health naturally by restoring your intended posture and spinal curves.
Remember, posture is the window to health. While many people recount stories of a mother or grandmother ordering them to sit up straight or pull back their shoulders, often there is a deeper problem preventing proper posture. Misalignment of spinal joints can inhibit you from achieving your best posture and health. Just like your car tires need regular alignment to prevent early and uneven wear, maintaining body alignment will keep you firing on all cylinders and will insure even wear on your joints. Regular spine maintenance can prevent much larger problems later in life.